Photos by Lori Sky Twohy
Tara Nevins is a tiny but mighty force of voice and ripping fiddle. In between her stint with her band, Donna The Buffalo, she has taken up a solo career with a band of talented, very stoic, interesting looking older men. She is still touring with Mark Raudabaugh. He is the newest addition to Donna the Buffalo from Atlanta who used to play with colonel Bruce.
She took the stage at The Grey Eagle 2 Friday’s ago to a mostly seated crowd that was enveloped by the magic her band produced. I wouldn’t know about the small scene that follows Tara or Donna The Buffalo if it wasn’t for a dear friend that recently passed named Matthew Reid Fisher. This show reminded me of him and his great taste and love for Tara and DTB.
Tara can somtime be called Donna, although there is actually no “Donna” from her band Donna The Buffalo, but she is indeed her own powerful individual voice. If you are a fan of DTB, then there’s no doubt you know of the ravishing voice that comes out clear in all of their songs. This night was showcasing her latest album, “Wood and Stone”. This introspective, American root, traditional album was produced by the one and only, Larry Campbell and features splendid artists like Levon Helm, Jim Lauderdale, Allison Moorer, and Teresa Williams, just to name a few. This is her first solo album since “Mule to Ride” in 1999. However, “Wood and Stone” seems to be a showcase of her ever changing repertoire with her band. Joining her at these limited shows are Riley Baugus (banjo), Mike Compton (mandolin), Pete Finney (pedal steel and electric guitar), David Grier (acoustic guitar), Todd Phillips (bass), Amber-Dawn Rische (harmony vocals and fiddle), and DTB drummer Mark Raudabaugh.
Some say this album is a journey back to her roots while still trudging forth into new territory. Tara’s first band, “The Heartbeats” was similar in that she dabbled between guitar, fiddle, accordion and scrub board. She also shares the songwriting responsibilities with the band, however, it is evident she is the powerhouse in this group. “This album is personal and sort of revelatory,” Nevins says. “It’s an expression of recent emotional discovery within relationships lost and found, and how knowing the core of who we are is the real deal. There were so many elements I wanted to explore—to combine all the pieces of my personal musical puzzle–and then have it come together in a cohesive whole. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Larry Campbell. I am honored to have had him both produce and play on my record. He’s an amazingly talented and soulful musician. He has a very natural, down-to-earth approach and an instinctual insightfulness that I really appreciate; he really got what I was after. The whole experience was inspiring and challenging in a very positive way.”
Tara’s raw and heartfelt songs had people leaving The Grey Eagle in a thankful mood that she continues on her own while her band is in limbo. Her down- home humbleness and “girl next door” attitude makes it impossible to not enjoy what she is producing. During the show, Amber Dawn Rische came out to dance with the crowd for a moment, then make her way back up to stage. Between the crowd and band comradery, David Grier would say jokes that would juggle the crowd such as, “What’s the difference between Jesus and zombie Jesus…? Zombie Jesus saves you for later.” The band covered “Cotton Eye Joe” and “Ain’t Gunna Be Treated This Way” by Woody Guthrie.
The dabbling between Americana, country and straight up rock has people wondering what’s next for this young, talented soul. CMT says, “With the wonderful fiddle groove and vividly written lyrics, Nevins gives a glimpse into her roots. Stepping out for a rare solo record (beyond her beloved band, Donna the Buffalo), she meshes her Cajun influences, unique voice, drums and steel guitars for an intriguing look at her heritage.” I’m blessed that I was able to catch her on this short, 4 show tour and am awaiting the next time she will take stage, with or without Donna The Buffalo. Keep and eye and ear peeled for her upcoming news at www.Donnathebuffalo.com or add her on Facebook.